For many years, this phrase has been my guide post. I am not much of a risk taker in the sense of doing adventurous things like roller coasters and black diamond ski runs. At the same time, I am a deluxe risk taker intellectually. I seize the challenge, seek it and thrive on it. I never think I can’t do or learn something new. This post is not about how wonderful or not I am, but rather to stress the value of seize the day. Take on an adventure, learn something new, challenge yourself. I believe that the outcome will be a good one.
Currently I serve as a Co-Chair of the Committee for The Southern Colorado Girls STEM Initiative. I have a passion for encouraging girls in STEM subjects and professions. I have seen and heard too many stories with the same outcome. These results that have kept girls from pursuing their passion and potential. I am not good enough. Boys are better at math. I was probably one of those girls, but like many others, I had a variety of abilities. I listened to others and never self-discovered what I might really like to do. When I was in high school, I was good at math, very good actually. I received no encouragement except from my older brother who said I should do something with it. “Women will be needed in those fields in the future.” How did he know? There were some girls who pursued math, science and engineering, but not many. It was still a time where women became mothers, nurses, and teachers. It was the time of Women’s Liberation movement, but not that many were moving forward. Some were talking, but subtle, non-spoken messages prevailed. Some of my high school female classmates went on to study engineering, one I think, and maybe one or two in the biomedical sciences. There are a few lawyers, one physician and myself, on various creative paths.
Growing up, I was encouraged to nurture and at the same time told I didn’t have a nurturing bone in my body. (That was not true). I was encouraged to do girl things such as art, drama, dance and music. I had ability for those things so why discourage me and encourage something else? I liked to build things and do puzzles, but was told to play the piano and play with dolls.
As a result, when I had my first child, I couldn’t wait to bring on the blocks and the puzzles. My daughter wore blue clothes because she had incredible blue eyes. We built with Legos. We had a few dolls and they rarely made their way out of the closet. Years later, I decided to do a research project on what toys girls who excel in math and science played with. This area of study is expanding these days with the focus on increasing numbers for girls in STEM fields, especially since girls are underrepresented girls in STEM professions. At that time, there was little research on this subject, and none done in the United States. I created my own study with a small group of high school girls who were going off to college and who had decided on a STEM major. Yes, most of them played with Legos and puzzles and not too much Barbie. These girls were allowed the freedom of expression that crossed stereotypical gender lines. They were still feminine, liked to go to the mall, wear make-up and shop. My message to the world. These things are not mutually exclusive.
The most interesting study was done in the Netherlands where they watched preschoolers through a one way window. What did they choose to play with when no one was looking? What did they play with when encouraged by Mom or Dad? The levels of subtleties went deep from body language to words and actually physically taking away a boy toy, such as a truck.
So what is my message? We need to rethink the way we talk and indoctrinate our girls. This stereotyping comes from both parents, male and female teachers and a host of other sources, not a small one being the portrayal of women in the media. The biggest influence being parents and teachers. The parents are the first teachers and later teachers have a huge audience of willing students anxious to please while hanging on every word that comes out of the teacher’s mouth. Yes, I do think many students do this. They are listening–to everyone and everything.
My message to girls is SEIZE THE DAY! You get one life and one chance. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something you want to do. If you understand the process and are willing to work hard, the world is yours. You don’t need to be super smart. You do need to have a work ethic and motivation. Don’t let a parent or teacher tell you that you didn’t show interest in math or science because they weren’t looking for your interest unknowingly guided you in a another direction. Take the moment. It is yours.
The Girls’ STEM Experience :http://youtu.be/XGBpU7o7BKc